ARUP Laboratories, a national clinical and anatomic pathology reference laboratory that focuses on research and development, teamed up with Motoman, Inc., a robotic automation manufacturer, and the University of Utah’s College of Engineering to develop an automated thawing and mixing workcell for clinical laboratory specimens. The system processes approximately 1,000 specimens per hour. It replaces a manual process that required almost one and a half hours to complete.
A polycarbonate safety enclosure encases the workcell, which stands approximately 6 x 6 in. tall and includes a six-axis, robotic arm that gathers samples as they travel across ARUP’s automated transport and sorting system. The robot places the specimens in front of high-velocity brass nozzles. Each nozzle blows room-temperature air at a rate of 2 L/min, per specimen. The 760º nozzle deck expels a combined airflow of 1,520 L/min.
Air enters the standardized tube carriers (STCs) through a slit normally used for bar code reading and wraps around each tube, thawing it from all sides. In approximately 15 to 20 minutes, the specimens thaw.
Next, the robot, which holds up to ten specimens, uses pneumatic, pressure-pin cylinders that clamp tightly on the tube caps to prevent leakage. It then mixes the samples by smoothly rotating in a 270º pattern. Immediately after mixing, the specimens return to the transport system, which takes them to a sorter. The sorter arranges the specimens individually according to test.
The University of Utah’s College of Engineering
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